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Errol C. Friedberg Collection

Identifier: ECF

Scope and Content

The Errol C. Friedberg Collection consists of material related to the writing and publication of two biographies: The Writing Life of James D. Watson and Sydney Brenner: A Biography (both published by CSHL Press). The bulk of the collection is composed of research material, much of it photocopies of documents found in the James D. Watson Collection and the Sydney Brenner Collection, both housed at the CSHL Library and Archives. Research material also includes numerous scientific papers and articles, the bulk of which are photocopies.

The files related to the Watson biography include correspondence with publishers, correspondence with Watson, an interview with Andrew Berry, and several drafts.

The Sydney Brenner files include galley proofs, correspondence with publishers, correspondence with scientists (including R. Horowitz, M. Meselson, H. Huxley, S. Benzer, and Watson), and transcripts of interviews with scientists (including D. Baltimore, S. Benzer, W. Bodmer, Brenner, W. Gilbert, F. Jacob, A. Klug, J. Lederberg, R. Olby, L. Orgel, F. Sanger, and Watson). Of note is an original typescript of Brenner’s paper “On The Impossibility of All Overlapping Triplet Codes” (1956).

The collection consists only of material related to these two biographies. It does not include Friedberg’s personal or scientific papers, nor does it include material related to any other works.

The material has been organized into two record groups:

Record Group I: The Writing Life of James D. Watson, 1998-2004

  1. Research Files, Boxes 1-3
  2. Writing Files, Boxes 3-4
  3. Drafts, Boxes 5-7

Record Group II: Sydney Brenner: A Biography, 1956, 2008-2010

  1. Research Files, Boxes 8-19
  2. Publication Files, Boxes 20-23


  • Creation: 1956-2010
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1998 - 2010


Language of Materials

Some materials in Russian.

Access Restrictions

Some restrictions apply to this collection. Access is given only by appointment, 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Use Restriction

Archival materials must remain in the archival reading area. Item duplication is to be done by archivists. Fees are applied to copies made. Digital photography is permitted by users. Due to the very fragile nature of some materials in this collection, some are available through photocopies; others must be used under the supervision of an archivist.


Errol Clive Friedberg is a retired biologist and historian of science in the Department of Pathology at Stanford University and later the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He studied medicine at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and received postdoctoral training in biochemistry and pathology at Case Western Reserve University before joining the faculty at Stanford University. Friedberg's research contributions center on understanding how cells repair and/or tolerate unrepaired damage to DNA and defining the biological consequences of unrepaired DNA damage.

Friedberg has published several volumes on aspects of the history of molecular biology, including Correcting the Blueprint of Life - An Historical Account of the Discovery of DNA Repair Mechanisms, The Writing Life of James D. Watson, From Rags to Riches - The Phenomenal Rise of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and Sydney Brenner: A Biography.

Friedberg is a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists (1988) and the American Academy of Microbiology (2002), and was a Mellon Lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh (2002). He has received the Rous-Whipple Award from the American Society for Investigative Pathology (2000), an honorary doctorate of science from the University of Witwatersrand (2002), and received the Lila Gruber Honor Award for Cancer Research from the American Academy of Dermatology (2007).


9 linear feet (22 Boxes)


The Errol C. Friedberg Collection is comprised of material related to the research and writing of biographies of Nobel Laureates James D. Watson and Sydney Benner.

Arrangement Note

Materials in the James D. Watson Research Files were unorganized and grouped together by the processing archivist. The Writing Files and Drafts are arranged chronologically.

Materials in the Sydney Brenner Research Files were generally well arranged by subject (typically chapters in the book). The organized files comprise boxes 8-16. Unorganized material was placed after, in boxes 17-19. Loose material was foldered and labeled “Miscellaneous Research.” Publication files include a set of organized correspondence (box 20), galleys (box 21), transcripts of interviews (box 21), and other miscellaneous material (notes on photographs, comments on the manuscript, and notes; boxes 21-22).


The collection was donated by Errol C. Friedberg in three parts. The first accession consisted of three record cartons related to writing The Writing Life of James D. Watson and was received in July 2011 (Accession #2011-045). The second accession consisted of three record cartons of material related to writing Sydney Brenner: A Biography and was received on August 2, 2011 (Accession #2011-047). The third accession consisted of two more boxes of Brenner material and was received on August 22, 2011 (Accession #2011-056). The collection was processed in November 2011.

Related Collections

Related collections in the CSHL Library and Archive include the Sydney Brenner Collection, the James D. Watson Collection, and the Oral Histories with Sydney Brenner and James D. Watson. For photographs used in Sydney Brenner: A Biography, see Sydney Brenner Collection, Series 8: Photographs, Subseries 3, 2010 Accession.

Errol C. Friedberg Collection
Under Revision
Finding Aid Prepared by John Zarrillo. Updated by Em Longan, May 2022.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives Repository

Library & Archives
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
One Bungtown Rd
Cold Spring Harbor NY 11724 USA